The series Of Blood, of Pleasure and of Death… presents a selection of experimental films with gay and lesbian themes designed to show some of the key pieces of avant-garde and underground film, putting them into context and in relation to the mass culture that generated them. The series title, in part inspired by the film trilogy by Gregory Markopoulos (Toledo, 1928 - Freiburg, 1992) Du sang, de la volupté et de la mort (1947-1948) acts as a metaphor for a series of films that, like the work by Markopoulos, see ‘blood, pleasure and death’ as an imaginary place where the desire, pain and the annihilation of the body are confronted and its being is oppressed by social norms and sexual taboos. The second part of the title, Some Films on ‘Sexual Disorientation’, in turn, relates to the confirmation of a fact: gay and lesbian film did ‘not’ exist before the 1970s or if it existed, it was limited to only two or three works. Given that the idea of a group or concept of gay and lesbian identity based on the term sexual ‘orientation’ did not exist (it emerged in the 1970s), this body of films cannot easily be described using those terms. This does not mean to say that there were no sexually ambiguous films suggesting ‘strange’ desires or ‘disoriented’ artists and filmmakers. Hundreds of films featured homosexual characters, but very few were made by homosexuals and even fewer had a gay or lesbian content.
The focal point of Of Blood, of Pleasure and of Death… is European avant-garde film from the 1920s and American underground film, with the term underground here being understood as both a noun and adjective, i.e., the underground as a specific film movement located in New York during the 1970s and as a concept of alternative, non-commercial, low-budget films with no defined social or aesthetic ideology. Since Manny Farber coined the term in 1957, underground has been synonymous with an anti-bourgeois subculture and, above all, anti-Hollywood film. These films are distinguished by their mixture of primitivism and coarseness, their ambivalence towards mass culture and, especially, by a deliberate and indecent attitude towards everything taboo, especially (hetero-homo) sexual taboo.